Smart and Simple Solution #4

I’ve just gotten back from a weekend long retreat with the women from my church. And, while I realize a full weekend break is a luxury that I can’t often afford, retreating is a smart and simple solution that I want to become more intentional about using to help navigate the reality and chaos of my busyness.

I don’t naturally stop well. In my house, my car and my office, I have trouble turning off my to-do list brain and focusing. I need to step out of my reality more often – literally and physically – I need to step out of my routine, my house, my work and my chaos

I’m trying a new solution, and I’m walking away.

Walking out my door, even just into my yard, my brain switches and I have a much greater probability of focusing my heart and mind.

Taking the whole weekend to retreat was amazing. The extended time away to focus and rest has been deeply rejuvenating. Going to a full weekend retreat isn’t a smart and simple solution that I can take into my “normal” life very easily though, but I’m going to aim to work a mini-retreat into my next few Sabbath times and see if physically stepping out of my house helps solve my focus problem. I’m going to try to include a mini-retreat like one of these:

·         Walking mini-retreat – I am going to walk for at least 20 minutes and look for prayer triggers in my community. I’m going to start by thanking God for my home as I exit and be intentional to engage my brain for prayer as I pass neighbours houses, the local school and park etc.

·         Coffee Date with Jesus – I am going to take my journal and Bible to a local coffee shop, buy a fancy coffee (which I rarely buy), and settle in to read and journal and enjoy the change in space and pace.

·         Find a friend – I realized this weekend just how important the relaxed fellowship aspect is to my relationships. I am going to connect with a friend outside of my house and ask good questions and be intentional and active in listening and praying.

I’d invite you to join me in stepping outside your normal space as a smart and simple solution to help you focus, either as part of a weekly Sabbath practice or as a daily habit. Join us over in our facebook group to chat about other ideas for stepping outside your normal and focusing better on Jesus.

Stop is a verb

I had mistaken the definition of stop. It’s clearly a verb. It’s an action word.

Stopping is not passive. It doesn’t just happen. So why do I expect it to?

In my world, stopping only happens with intention, planning and prioritizing.

The school year has hit our family in full force now. My kids are in big and busy years, but different this year is that I’m in school too. I’m in an intensive, full-time professional program. You should see the reading lists for my classes. Oh my word! So. Much. Reading.

It would take almost no effort at all to justify stopping any attempt to seek, find or practical Sabbath this school year. Everyone would understand. But, God has put it so strongly on my heart, that I can’t let it go.

Instead, I’m doing the opposite and have explained to my children that we are trying something different this year. We are calling a stop to all school work for Sundays. I want, no… I need one day a week where I’m not doing it, not thinking about it, and not nagging my children about it.

Let’s be honest, this isn’t going to be easy and we may not manage it perfectly. We are going to have to be diligent, intentional and focussed the balance of the week… and organized (which I am not). But, having the boundary in place is our best chance of actually keeping a day of rest.

Do you have boundaries around your Sabbath practice? Are there things you have to be intentional to stop or to start? I’d love to know how this works in your life. Join in the conversation. Comment below, or jump over to our Facebook group, where we can chat.

Smart and Simple Solution #3

Today, I made myself a Sabbath Basket. I’m calling these simple solutions for a reason… this might be something everyone BUT me already had figured out! It’s super simple, but I expect it to be a significant solution to my rather scattered approach!

I am a random (scattered) thinker – and as a result, I don’t have a lot of routines, structure, or systems that stay the same for very long. My house gets pretty scattered, my bookshelf is very scattered, and things often end up in very strange places. Let me be real and honest for a moment and confess that I lost the same cup of coffee four times today.

So as I was looking for solutions that might help me do better at keeping my Sabbath focussed, I decided to start by just gathering things up for easy access.

My basket is filled with things to pull out both for my Sabbath times, and for my daily devotion time. And, I also picked a spot in my house to keep it – our house is small and I haven’t had a designated quiet space for myself (I didn’t even have a bedroom of my own until July!). Today I picked a corner to try and use consistently so I have a space with everything I need ready to go.

I put a Bible and a notebook in there, and a pen for taking notes. (My Bible looks a little worse for wear… but, this isn’t about being pretty!)

I put a very simple short devotion book in, and also two of the next books that I’m hoping to finish reading.

And I put in a colouring book, and a few art supplies. I am not super artistic, but I feel like space for creativity is important for me when trying to get my brain into a place of stillness. Colouring seems to engage just enough of my brain that I can really settle.

It’s important to note, all of these items were in my house. I didn’t have to go buy anything, I just had to think intentionally and gather things up.

I’m curious, do you have a basket or zone in your house that you designate for quiet times? What helps you focus? I’d love to have you comment below, or come join the conversation in our Seeking Sabbath Facebook group.

Smart and Simple Solution #2

I knew I was heading into a crazy weekend. A crazy, no window for rest kind of weekend. But, I got a little strategic in finding ways to simplify and managed to still make Sabbath a reality.

I decided this weekend needed to be as kitchen-hassle-free as possible. My smart and simple solution? Crock pot pulled pork for the win.

I have literally the easiest recipe EVER ever and knew I could easily make one crock pot cover multiple meals.

My pulled pork recipe involves covering a pork tenderloin with BBQ sauce and turning it on. That’s it. Prep time, maybe 90 seconds. 120 if the sauce pours slowly!

Which BBQ sauce? Really doesn’t matter, I go with whatever is on sale.

I put the pork in on Saturday morning. We did pulled pork sandwiches with salad on Saturday night.

I put the inside of the crock pot in the fridge over night, plugged it back in on the lowest setting on Sunday and we had pulled pork and rice Sunday night.

We ate well all weekend, and I really didn’t even cook.

Oh, and since my kid’s schedules didn’t all fit together, I also had take away containers packed and ready. So easy!

This smart and simple solution made my weekend so much calmer and helped create space for rest. I’d love to hear if you try this recipe, or if you have a go-to easy meal for busy weekends. Be sure to leave a comment with your ideas. We’re in this together!

Back to School, Busyness and Sabbath?

I work on call during the summer. My work can be quite predictable and fairly easy to gauge, and so I was pretty confident that I had this whole week off work to get organized, do housework and focus on back to school stuff. BUT, things didn’t go the way I planned.

I got called out to work for the whole balance of the summer. Financially, this is AWESOME. But, in every other way, it really isn’t! I will not have a week day off to get anything significant accomplished, or fit in some rest before we go back to school.

This year, my youngest child is entering her last year of elementary school. My third born is entering his last year of high school. And, I made the big decision to take a year long educational leave and go back to university myself. So there are some serious milestones attached to our back to school. Oh, and did I mention, child #1 is getting married in less than 6 weeks. And, child number 2 got engaged just this week! YAY!

When I talk about my life, and I talk about busyness, I feel a bit like Paul boasting about all the things in his resume in 2 Corinthians! Let me show you just how gifted at being busy I am…

Honestly, this is my reality. And each season seems to bring its own busyness. I don’t think its going to get naturally less busy any time soon. But, at least I can hold Paul’s perspective that my confident has to come from something other than what keeps me busy.

I had a lot of things I had hoped to get accomplished during my days at home this week – and that didn’t happen. If we are going to be honest, I’m further behind than when the week began. I’m heading into this weekend, and my windows for rest are small. I’m already questioning whether I’ve set myself up for a Sabbath fail!

But here’s what I know to be true:

1)      I need to choose to rest even in the middle of chaos

2)      There will ALWAYS be something that looks like it needs to get done “first”

3)      I don’t have to be legalistic, with a whole bunch of self-imposed rules to judge my Sabbath

4)      Sabbath rest is God’s gift to me. Appreciating it, and spending time honouring him is my gift back. And no stack of dishes, pile of laundry or shopping trip is worth missing it.

So, as I head into this weekend, already aware that I’ll be practicing Sabbath is a pretty imperfect way, I invite you to also find your time to stop. Rest. Breathe deeply. Don’t miss the gift in the midst of the mess or endless to-do list.

If you are serious about seeking Sabbath for yourself, or curious as to what that even might look like, head over to our Facebook group – where we can connect and chat and encourage each other. 

Sabbath Recipes and Perseverance

I’m finding it easier to identify what is NOT good Sabbath practice for me than to nail down what IS my best practice. And, while I’ve been experimenting and seeking Sabbath consistently, no two weeks have been quite the same.

I haven’t found a formula for Sabbath that exactly “works” for me. I have no quick and easy, tested and true, three or four step recipe for a perfect Sabbath that you can ALWAYS count on to turn out right (or that you can download for a small fee!)

I’ve been reading a lot and trying different ideas. One of the books I recently read, which touches on this topic, is “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.” Author Joanna Weaver suggests the closest thing I’ve found so far to a “Sabbath recipe” – as she lists three components of a Sabbath. To seriously simmer down her full thoughts (found on page 185-186 in the original 2000 edition for those who want to go back to the source), she suggests:

  • The Sabbath needs to be different, contrasting noticeably with the other six days.
  • It should be a day of devotion with time to focus our hearts and minds on God alone.
  • And, it should be at least partially a family day, with time spent with our family of faith in corporate worship and fellowship.

I think those are some really good ingredients for a successful Sabbath. For me, I know that I also need to intentionally include some sort of literal, physical rest – ideally a nap or maybe two. I find that I want to read or study, and have casual connections with friends. It is a good day to go for a walk, or out for coffee with a friend knowing that the work can wait.

In my weeks of experimenting, I’ve had some really good Sabbath experiences, and some gong shows. Literal gong shows. No rest, no downtime, no particular devotion to be found amongst the crazy! Sabbath fails, shall we say.

I found encouragement in Weaver’s book to persevere. Here’s what she says:

“When it comes to our spiritual lives, a lot of us are all-or-nothing people. If we aren’t automatically perfect, we just give up. When Christ-like virtues like patience and kindness seem hard to come by, we abandon our character development and decide holiness is for those better equipped. But when we give up, we’re giving up on our part of the partnership. Perseverance is one of our responsibilities in this process of being changed.” (pg 202, I added the bold emphasis myself!).

Perseverance is my responsibility in the process of being changed. Hmmmm… I need to name that, claim that, cross stitch and frame that! (but seriously… who am I kidding! I’m not making time to cross stich anything!)

Perseverance is what I’m bringing to my search for Sabbath. I’m going to keep on keeping on, and I sure hope that in the process, I am changed. And, I hope that you’ll stick with me. Maybe we can figure out this Sabbath thing together.

If you are interested in getting your own copy of “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World”, it has been re-released since the 2000 edition that I have dog-eared on my shelf. I found mine at Value Village, but if you don’t happen to come across a copy and want to buy one, click on this link for ordering information from Amazon.ca.

Sabbath Imposters

A while back, I had a season where I felt like I was drowning in unending task management. I decided I needed “a Sabbath” and I stayed home from church – and I proclaimed to anyone who asked that I was taking a Sabbath and not attending service (where I often am in work mode).

My children went to church and I power cleaned for three hours. When my son came home and realized that I spent the whole morning catching up on housework, he said, “I don’t think you quite understand the concept of Sabbath mom!”

The boy was right.

I’m getting a better working definition of what good Sabbath practice looks like for me, but in my experimenting over the past few months, I’ve discovered a few things that I try to label as Sabbath that honestly just aren’t. 

Here are four Sabbath imposters, that need to be kicked out of my Sabbath practice.:

1.       Being sick… not a Sabbath!

I used to sort of joke about my various illnesses and injuries as being signs from God to rest. I say “sort of” because while it sounded funny, I wasn’t actually joking. I didn’t rest in any significant way until I was so sick or injured that I was incapable of anything but couch surfing. That kind of forced rest is not something I can qualify as Sabbath anymore.

2.       Catching up… not a Sabbath!

Power cleaning, or spending a day clearing items off a neglected to-do list might require a day set aside from “normal” tasks. That doesn’t make it a Sabbath. That is just a different kind of work day! Even though I may feel WAY better and more at peace when I’m done, catching up definitely isn’t rest.

3.       IKEA shopping… not a Sabbath!

I’m trying to find a good formula for my Sabbath that includes time with God, time with family/friends and time alone in real rest.  I recently tried spending a portion of a day that was set aside as Sabbath with my daughters walking through IKEA. Bonding time with the girls fits Sabbath for me – so this seemed like a good idea! Perhaps if you really love shopping and find it a relaxing way to connect in relationship, it might have worked for you. But, after two hours in IKEA, I knew 100% without a doubt, that shopping is not Sabbath-friendly for me! Not at IKEA, the mall, the grocery store or online… There is nothing restful or restorative about it for me. It’s stressful and I don’t like it. I can’t claim it as a Sabbath.

4.       Crap TV… (sadly) not a Sabbath!

This is honestly my go-to “relaxation” strategy. I turn on “time-well wasted” television that has little redemption value. OK, lets be honest – the stuff I like to watch in my downtime often is crap! Its fluff. Funny, mind numbing fluff. But, fluff all the same. Again, for you a sitcom or movie might very well fit into your definition of Sabbath rest. I personally have more sitcom dialogues memorized than Bible verses and I know it! I have to resist the temptation to turn that kind of TV on and turn my brain off at every opportunity. Binge watching is so easy once you’re comfortable and settled. So, even if by definition, watching television may be restful. It’s not a good choice as part of a Sabbath practice for me.

I’ve spent a few months now experimenting and failing and learning and succeeding with developing an actual practice of Sabbath. I’ve found things that work and fit well for me too, but those are stories for another post.

A disclaimer… I am aware that some of these things may be something you include in your Sabbath time. That is totally OK. We’re all wired a little different and, so this is not intended to judge. You do you!